HOW DOES YOUR MENSTRUATION AFFECT PERIMENOPAUSE?

HOW DOES YOUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE WORK?

During the menstrual cycle the uterus prepares itself for implantation of a fertilised egg.  If this does not happen then the uterus will shed its lining and this is known as menstruation or a “period”.

Usually the menstruation cycle is between 28-35 days.  On day 1, the cycle begins with bleeding and this usually lasts 3-7 days.  The cycle ends just before the next menstrual period.

The menstrual cycle is carefully regulated by several hormones.  Luteinizing Hormone (LH), Follicle-stimulating Hormone (FSH), Estrogen and Progesterone.

The cycle is divided into three phases:

The first phase is before the egg is released

The second phase is ovulation where the egg is released

The third phase is after release of the egg

THE FIRST PHASE

This phase is the first day of bleeding when the egg is not fertilized and the lining of the uterus begins to shed.  In this phase, estrogen and progesterone levels are low.  You will probably be feeling more tired during this phase. 

The pituitary gland starts to increases production of FSH and estrogen is secreted to stimulate the egg cells in the ovaries to grow and mature.  This takes about 13 days.  You will have a boost of energy during this phase and its a good time for exercise as you will have more testosterone.  You might also find that you have new ideas, feel motivated to have a clear out or tidy up and help out others too.  This is a good time to start new projects.  This phase ends with ovulation.

THE SECOND PHASE

The pituitary gland now increases the production of LH.  This usually happens on day 14 and tells the ovaries to release the egg into the fallopian tube.  The lifespan of the egg is usually about 24 hours unless it is fertilized by sperm.  At this time, estrogen and testosterone drop off and progesterone is released.  The corpus luteum keeps progesterone levels high to maintain the lining of the uterus. 

THE THIRD PHASE

If pregnancy does not occur, progesterone reduces at around day 22 and around day 28 the next menstruation period begins.

WHAT CHANGES OCCUR IN PERIMENOPAUSE?

After the age of 35, the hormones, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone start to go up and down like on a rollercoaster ride. 

This will have an impact on your menstruation cycle. 

Progesterone is the first hormone to start declining during perimenopause. 

As you get older, your ovaries age too and your eggs start to run out.  Your ovaries start to produce less and less estrogen and progesterone and as a result, your pituitary gland secretes higher levels of FSH and LH to enable your body to keep your ovaries working like they used to and continue to develop follicles, produce estrogen and after ovulation, produce progesterone. 

The increase will keep the ovaries ticking over but before long, the levels must continue increasing in order to get the job done and the FSH and LH will start failing in the production of enough estrogen and progesterone. 

Estrogen levels will begin to decline much closer to menopause.

Due to the hormone changes, you will start to have some symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, anxiety etc.  The good news is that there are lots of ways to control your rollercoaster ride of hormones and get your symptoms under control. 

You do not have to put up with them and accept it as a “natural process of ageing”.

In the second phase of perimenopause, after the age of around 45,  you can expect to start noticing changes in your period. 

Your cycle will probably start at day 25 instead of day 28, you will most likely notice that the flow is different, sometimes heavier, sometimes lighter, your periods become more irregular and you might go a few months without a period.  Your periods will become scatty and you will need to carry around a tampon or sanitary towel in your bag because you won’t be able to track your periods like before.

As you get closer to menopause, you will notice that you will skip more and more periods each month. 

This is a normal process and the larger the gap between periods the closer you are getting to menopause. 

Perimenopause is over when you have gone a full 12 months without a period. 

You are then in menopause. 

When you hit menopause and your ovaries have closed down, your adrenal glands take over in production of your hormones. 

You will still produce your reproductive hormones, just in lower amounts.  

You will still have the rise and fall of progesterone and estrogen but without a period!

FOODS TO EAT FOR A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE AND MORE ENERGY

FOODS TO AVOID

Refined Sugar – Avoid sugar as much as you can.  Look at ingredients lists when you buy your food as sugar is hidden in so many foods such as sauces, snacks, cereals etc.

Sugar can deplete your nutrients and energy levels very quickly.  It is also addictive and the more you eat the more you want. 

Margarine – it is processed and is not good to eat.  You are better off eating butter.  Butter has more flavour and contains Vitamin D. 

Processed Foods (anything in a packet) – The pre-packaged foods have way too much bad salt and preservatives and additives and sugar.

Cereal and Cereal Bars – Be careful when you buy cereal and cereal bars because most of these are bad for you and contain lots of sugar and additives.  Always read the ingredients list on these products.  You want the ingredients list to be as short as possible! 

Some Muesli’s have way too much sugar in them so if you like to eat cereal for your breakfast, look for the ones with low sugar bearing in mind that if it has lots of fruit in it then fruit has its own natural sugar and thats good for you.

FOODS TO EAT

You get your “essential fatty acids” from fats and oils so you want to make sure you eat the best ones.

Coconut Oil – The best fat to cook with is cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil.  It is a medium chain fat and is very good for digestion and helps to lose weight and gives you instant energy because it is digested very quickly.  Its also an excellent oil to cook with as it can withhold high temperatures without going rancid. 

Avocados  – They are an excellent good fat and they also contain Vitamin E, fibre, folate, Vitamin K, Vitamin C and Vitamin B6.  Add it to salads. 

Ghee – If you are intolerant to lactose then ghee is great as the milk has been separated from the butter to make ghee.  This is also excellent to cook with.

Try and avoid cooking with vegetable oils if you can as these aren’t the best oils to cook with and they can in fact cause inflammation in the body.

Extra virgin olive oil is best to be used on your salads in a dressing and not to fry with.  Olive oil is not a good oil to be heated for frying.  It is of course ok to roast some vegetables in the oven with olive oil or to use in a marinade for your meat with other herbs and spices. 

Try to eat more one ingredient foods.  One ingredient foods are foods that are not processed or pre-packaged.  Eating more of these foods will give you better health and energy.

Meat, vegetables, fruits, sweet potatoes, squashes, salads, nuts, seeds etc

Omega 3 fats – contained in fish and also in nuts and seeds – walnuts, flaxseeds, Chia Seeds, hemp seeds and also in algae as a vegetarian source.

Quinoa – Its a grain a bit like couscous but its wheat free and is packed with nutrients including protein and B vitamins.  You can eat quinoa with anything and flavour it with anything.  It is also great to eat cold with a salad. 

Brown Rice – choose brown and not white rice for more nutrients.

Sweet potato or Squash – you can roast it or boil it and make a mash from it with some butter and paprika.   These are a great starchy carbohydrate to help keep blood sugar stable.

You can cook lots of delicious meals using the above one ingredient foods and use spices and herbs for flavours and added nutrients.

Nuts, Seeds and Dried Fruit – Nuts and Seeds are an excellent source of protein and fat and will help you to stay away from sugary foods.  They contain vitamin E, zinc and magnesium, folate, selenium.  Dried fruit, especially dates are an excellent carbohydrate and sweet treat.  Dates contain sugar and fibre.  Essential minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium and zinc and B vitamins, folate, vitamin A and vitamin K.

SNACKS

We all like sweet things right!  I am not asking you to stop eating cake or chocolate etc altogether, just to eat in moderation or have a smaller piece or slice. 

You can eat chocolate and I recommend dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa.  Dark chocolate is much better for you than milk chocolate as it has more cocoa. 

Snack on nuts and seeds, fruit and nut butters etc.  Some examples are:-

Banana with almond butter

Apples with almond butter

Carrot or cucumber sticks and hummous

Energy balls made with coconut oil, dates as a base and then add in cacao or raspberries or nuts.  Process together and roll into balls.

Boiled eggs are a great protein snack

 

IN SUMMARY

When you eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts or seeds and good fats you are giving the body everything it needs for good health and energy levels. 

Think about food as nourishment rather than just to satisfy your hunger.  When you begin to think like that, you will start to think more about your food choices and cut back on sugar and processed foods.